Chocolate from the US, Canada, Ireland and France, Lebanese ice cream, a Bombay breakfast and a dream of a citrus tart…
- Wonderful friends sent me a selection of chocolate from E J Chocolates
- My lovely neighbour took an order for one of my favourite bars from Soma Chocolate in Toronto.
- Valrhona invited me to their Easter Egg event and sent me home with a goody bag of Easter treats, whilst there I encountered GRA Chocolates from Galway.
- Nicolas from The Connaught Patisserie persuaded me to visit for their citrus tart (I paid).
- I finally found a time and person to share ice cream from Festok since I first encountered it in November 2021.
- I returned to Dishoom for the first time in so long and was reminded why there are still always queues outside each of their restaurants.
Read The Next Delicious Thing podcast transcript here…
Welcome to Episode Two of The Next Delicious Thing. Thanks for joining! This is a weekly podcast where I will be sharing with you the most delicious things that need to go to the top of your list to try next. I am spending my weeks trying many, many, many things in order to make sure that I can give you an edited list of things that are worth spending your money on.
I’m Jennifer Earle. I am a food consultant and I guide food tours. And I just really like trying lots of things. So I wanted to find a way that was easy to share with you. Things that I really think you can’t miss that will bring joy to your life, because they are so delicious. These things all come with my utmost recommendation. Every week, I’m going to be sharing with you somewhere between three and 10 things that I think that you should be seeking out. Most of them are from London. But, like this week, there are things that you can order to be sent to you, wherever you live in the world.
So, this week, I’m sharing several chocolates, one from Canada, one from the US and one from Ireland that you should definitely be seeking out. Also a sensational citrus tart from Mayfair, incredible Lebanese ice cream and dessert from Marleybone and a Bombay breakfast available all over London and beyond. This one might be very familiar to you. If you’re a Londoner then you might recognise some of the things I share. I hope that they will be a reminder to you to go back and try them again. Or maybe there will be something brand new to you.
First the chocolate: I’m going to start with one of my favourite chocolate makers and chocolatiers in the whole world. Soma Chocolate was founded by David Castellan and Cynthia Leung in 2003. So, this was before my chocolate journey started my chocolate journey. How pretentious does that sound? David and Cynthia started their business roasting cocoa beans and turning them into chocolate in Toronto in this like tiny corner of a whiskey factory. They are super lovely people that I got to meet at the Northwest chocolate festival in Seattle a few years ago. And everything that they make that I have tried, it has been incredible. One of my favourites, which is the one that I had my neighbour pick up and bring back because I just was so excited that I had the opportunity to try it again was what they call their old school bar. They have it in milk and in dark. And what it means is basically it’s unrefined, which is the traditional way of making chocolate before Lindt invented the refining process that we use now in 1878. So it is definitely old school. What you get with this particular bar by not being refined is sugar crystals and tiny little crunchy bits of the cocoa nibs. And, because the quality of the cocoa beans that David and Cynthia and their team source is amazing, you get all these incredible, like slightly fruity notes. It’s really malty and biscuity. And for me it’s really nostalgic. It reminds me of eating Milo out of the tin. So, if you didn’t know, I grew up in Australia. Anyone else who grew up in the Antipodes might have strong memories of this – or possibly anyone whoe grew up in Asia as well. And in South Africa! Milo is pretty common and eating it straight from the tin is a pastime familiar to children in these countries. So this bar is like a grownup version of eating Milo out of the tin, and definitely better quality. If you are planning to order anything from Soma, make sure you add one of these to your basket. If you are not in Canada, the shipping costs might seem high, but I promise you anything you buy from them will be sensational. If you want to go straightaway and do that you can go to the next list of things calm look for this episode for the week ending Sunday, the sixth of March 2022. The link will go straight to this particular product and you can buy this and many other things.
If you would prefer to buy from the US then my darling friends from Boston, Massachusetts – who have joined all of my 19 online mystery chocolate tastings – at the end, they kindly sent me some chocolates that they’ve been enjoying that are local to them. So I had a huge selection of filled chocolates – or truffles – from EJ Chocolates. And I love them all. I think my favourite was the classic hazelnut. But I also loved the Lychee & Rose and the Kalamansi Meringue. EJ Chocolates is a boutique in Woodstock, a beautiful town in upstate New York and it was founded by Emily Kellogg and Pierre Pouplard. And they met working in Per Se in New York City, which is a three Michelin Star restaurant, so they’re both pretty talented and it really shows in these chocolates. They do ship to the UK as well.
The final chocolate that I want to tell you about this week is from Ireland: from GRA Chocolate, which was a new discovery to me. I found them at the Valrhona Easter Egg event where a selection of chefs from the incredible hotels in London, like the Four Seasons, Hotel Cafe Royal, the Connaught, had created these phenomenal easter eggs and if you want to see the pictures go to thenextdeliciousthing.com. I’ve got them all there if you want to treat someone very special to some Easter chocolate this year. The final Chocolatier that I spoke to at the event was Andrew who works for Gráinne Mullins who founded GRA Chocolates in 2020. So many chocolate businesses grew out of the pandemic because pastry chefs were suddenly at home.
Gráinne has done a phenomenal job with her business and it’s just grown from strength to strength to strength. She ships all over Europe and beyond, and uses Valrhona chocolate plus local Irish butter and cream, which the Irish are justifiably very proud of, and other local ingredients like the sea salt and the honey. I met Andrew right at the end of the event and he was flying back to Ireland and didn’t want to take his beautiful eggs with him. So I was lucky enough to choose one to take home and chose the dark chocolate with honeycomb made with local honey. It is beautiful. I’m hoping that Grainne will agree to do an Online Mystery Tasting with me at some point this year, which I hope you’ll sign up for more on that in a future episode.
The Connaught Patisserie has a separate entrance to the Connaught Hotel but it is right next door on mountain Street which is an exceptionally beautiful part of Mayfair in central London, just south of Bond Street Station. It is adjacent to a beautiful park, Mount St Gardens, which not many people know is there. It’s like a little oasis. If you are in London and the weather is warm, even if it’s not, I would suggest you could take your pastry and sit there and it would definitely be cheaper than eating in because VAT is always added to desserts when you sit in somewhere and then a service charge. So there’s my top tip! But it is lovely to sit inside the patisserie as well; the staff are wonderful and it is very pretty. Everything that they make there is obviously of an exceptional standard. I would recommend asking the staff what they think is best but if there is a citrus tart, I can tell you it is going to be good. The Paris Brest is also sensational and you really shouldn’t go without trying the Connaughty Hound which is a unique and stunning dessert. Typically throughout the year it is milk chocolate and hazelnut praline, but they do specials for Mother’s Day, Valentine’s, Christmas… certain events throughout the year. It’s quite fun to look at as well as to eat.
To the Lebanese ice cream: I had not been aware that there was such a thing as Lebanese ice cream, at least not that it would be different to other ice cream. This is despite the fact that I have been running ice cream tours for seven years in London now! Festok, which opened in 2021, I stumbled across in November and finally went to visit this week. They warned me that it was different in that it is stretchy and chewy, which sounds really unusual. There is a video if you go to @thenextdeliciousthing of just how stretchy it is. And the reason for that is that all of the ice cream has mastic in it, which is the sap of a tree.
You’ll find mastic flavoured things really commonly in Greece, also in Turkey and in Lebanon and a few other countries in that general area. It’s particularly common in Greece though and, it is being the sap of the tree, it’s kind of piney in taste, but when you use it just in a tiny amount in the ice cream you don’t get the pine note but it makes it stretchy. And apparently also the orchid blossom they use contributes to the texture. There’s a couple of really traditional flavours which is the ones that we went for, but they do have more kind of typical ice cream flavours as well. We tried three of the flavours. I went with my friend and we also tried a Lebanese dessert, which blew my mind. It was so delicious and different from what I expected it to be. So it was a kanafeh which, when I’ve had desserts by that name in Arabic restaurants, it’s had that same pastry that I was talking about last week, that Kataifi pastry, which I think I pronounced wrong last week. Apologies. This kind of shredded, straw-like pastry that’s made with oil and water and flour. When I’ve had kanafeh in Arabic restaurants it’s been like a shell of this pastry with a curd cheese underneath it and then soaked in the orange blossom and rosewater syrup.
At Festok it was fully blended with the milk pudding and the curd cheese a kind of stretchy layer at the bottom. So, totally smooth, no texture or crunchiness to it. It was really, really moreish and not too sweet as sometimes it can feel when you’re not used to having syrup-soaked desserts as is common in Arabic treats. That can sometimes feel a little bit much, but this was really delicious and I’m definitely going back to have it again. I’d really recommend the halva ice cream and I also loved the ashti ice cream which is based on a milk pudding that is another Lebanese dessert and that includes the mastic but also orange blossom and rose water and was really delicate and elegant and delicious. So I am 100% going back to have ice cream from there.I really enjoyed it. It is really close to Selfridges. So if you are in the area, then I would detour.
The final place that I wanted to tell you about, which will mostly be a reminder because this place is very famous, very popular, constantly has queues outside. Yes, I’m talking about Dishoom. Dishoom was founded in Covent Garden in London in 2010 by a pair of cousins and a pair of brothers. They were – all four of them – very entrepreneurial, very entrepreneurial families as well. They wanted to create a restaurant that was different, and played to their Indian heritage. On a visit to Mumbai they looked at the Irani cafes that, really in the early 1900s, were very inclusive, very bustling, very democratic, very exciting, and really trying to emulate the Parisian brasseries with lots of ornate features. So they launched their immaculately considered, beautiful, huge brasserie in Covent Garden in 2010. It had queues from the very beginnings. They now have four restaurants in London, one in Birmingham, one in Manchester and one in Edinburgh. The queues are still there 12 years later, and rightfully so. I read an interesting article with one of the founders who said that the best way to reduce costs is to increase your revenue. And so they no longer try and look to decrease complexity or get better prices, because it was affecting the quality and you can really tell when you visit just how committed all of the team are, they are given the leeway to be excellent to the customers. He (the co-founder) said how they encourage all of the staff to come with heart and approach everything with heart. They consistently rank amongst the best places to work. They have over 700 employees and they’ve donated more than 10 million meals. For every breakfast that’s purchased, one is either given to a child in the UK or in India.It is a wonderful place to eat and to feel good about eating. They are extremely famous for the Naan Bacon Roll. Given I don’t need bacon, I was curious to try the vegan version. I actually went for the Bombay breakfast vegan version. The sausage was really quite extraordinary in how sausage-like it was, almost to the point where the casing felt slightly uncomfortable, but it was delicious with the soft buns that really reminded me of that Asian soft, sweet white bread: so comforting and delicious. They have bottomless chai, and now thankfully have an oat milk version as well. Their chai is sweet, peppery and strong in tea and very easy to drink lots of. I just I love it. It’s such a homely place to eat, and I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to return, but I will definitely be back again. And if you have also not visited recently, then I would suggest you go because we all need to sit somewhere, eat nourishing food with friends and feel reminded of what’s good in the world. Until next week, I hope you eat some delicious food. I wish you very happy eating.